Inside the Artist’s Studio: Let’s Put in Some Happy Little Trees
The Love of Art and Community with Kerian Massey
By Derrick White
“The hardest part of being an artist, for me, is trying to really express myself genuinely without it becoming some monstrous fluff because all I really want to do is create and not have some deep meaning to it. Other times my art is deep, but not always,” states artist Kerian Massey.
Massey graduated from The Art Center in Tucson, AZ with an Associate’s degree in advertising art. She was taught technical drawing and illustration. “I am also a self-taught painter. I picked up a paintbrush at age 24. I wouldn’t say I was very good for another 6 years or so. It took some time to learn. I’m still learning,” she adds.
Massey creates in a daring, colorful surrealist style appealing in good design and cheeky tastes. The artist states, “I paint ideas more than anything. I will have a big idea floating in my head and it won’t go away until I create it or at least get the idea sketched out onto a canvas. I will paint in whatever style suits my mood. I like realism but most of what I paint lends itself to a more illustrative style with weird juxtapositions.“ Kerian primarily uses acrylic on canvas. She also loves Prismacolor markers, colored pencils and heavy paper for illustrations, scratchboard, pen and ink and a myriad of sculpting materials.
Back in high school, Kerian Massey won an art contest and redesigned the academic logo for the school. The artist recounts another early inspiration: “I went to Puerto Rico on a vacation with a friend and was at a beautiful beach lamenting I only had 2 dollars left, yet we still had two more days left of our trip. A guy saw me drawing and asked me to create a sign for his business. I made $40 and it really hit home I could make a living making art. When I moved to Texas I created art for schools. I designed murals and mascots for a company called Graffixx. It was incredible to see my work so large, being painted by these talented teams of artists. I got to create the zodiac art mural in the TJC planetarium rotunda and I have created art for local schools including Lindale, Mabank, Tyler, Rains, and Van. As I was doing mural art, I had the opportunity to get my art onto Extreme Home Makeover five times.”
Kerian’s favorite artist is Bob Ross (American painter, art instructor, and television host). “I watched him as a kid with my dad. He taught me the basics of painting long before I ever picked up a brush. He made no real money from it. His heart made me love his work. I still am not a giant fan of his actual art but he is an artist I will forever admire because it was so much more about the love for art than anything else,” she states. Massey also finds inspiration in the art of Shepard Fairey (contemporary street artist, graphic designer, illustrator and founder of OBEY), Betsy Youngquist (surreal, mixed media artist), and Ron English (the artist who explores brand imagery and advertising), just to name a few.
“Art has given me a community of wonderful people who are determined to make our world a better and more colorful place. If it wasn’t for art, I wouldn’t have met so many brilliant, beautiful hearts who inspire me and so many others to keep creating and moving forward. Art is a common ground in a world filled with fear. We cannot escape our need to connect and communicate. Art connects in both a cathartic and subversive way so it is easy to let go. I feel like I have found a place now in my life where I can truly be myself and also give refuge to others who are seeking the same. I feel like the community is key to a solid life filled with good things and once you have it, the paradigm shifts,” states the artist.
Massey adds, “As I grew as an artist I felt one thing I was really lacking was community so I joined the Tyler Art of Peace Committee and got the privilege to create a peace-themed mural at Discovery Science Place and a Peace Pillar for the Under the Bridge Ministry. I also go to create several peace poles found throughout Tyler. I am now a part of the Van Zandt Art and Cultural Committee and we just hosted our first art show, the Van Go Art Fair in Van, Texas. It was a spectacular event. We will be hosting the annual Junebug Summer Fair in Ben Wheeler, June 22 and 23 at The Forge.”
Back in November of 2018, Massey encountered the opportunity of a lifetime. She and three other kindred spirits and fellow artists, Trystan Rhys, Randy Martin, and Jessica Lisby, opened an art gallery in Edom called the Edom Art Emporium. It is a hub of creativity and acceptance. The EAE, as it’s affectionately called, hosts a litany of events each month from classes, Thursday night open mics, and themed art shows. So come out and get a sense of the happy little community underneath the piney wooded canopy of Edom, Texas. Where you can shop, eat, unwind, and enjoy not only the art but the people as well.
Kerian Massey concludes, “I want to leave people with the thought art is obtainable. It is not just for museums and high society. It is in everything we do. It’s on our cereal boxes and as we drive down the street it is displayed on both sides of the road in various forms. Art is endless. It surrounds us. We couldn’t express ourselves without it. We are nothing without artistic human expression. Take a moment to appreciate what art means to you. It is obtainable because it is in everything you do already.”
Edom Art Emporium dates and art events: edomartemporium.com
Artist’s website: keriansart.com.
Caleb Bell: Inside the Artist’s Studio
Ride the Lightning
By Derrick White
“I think we are very fortunate here in Tyler. There are a lot of generous donors and supporters at various levels throughout the community. Since I moved to Tyler, there has been a noticeable increase in interest in the arts. The scene has definitely grown. Everything takes time, but I feel like we are moving in the right direction,” states Tyler Museum of Art curator, Caleb Bell.
Curators are those in charge of finding and selecting, classifying, handling and exhibiting artistic and cultural collections. Bell studied public relations & advertising and art history at the University of Texas at Tyler and graduated, magna cum laude, in 2011. He started as the public relations and marketing coordinator at the Tyler Museum of Art in early 2012. In 2014, Caleb began working on exhibitions and became curator in 2016. In addition to organizing exhibitions and programs over the last several years for the TMA, Bell has presented exhibitions at other institutions and given art talks at museums and galleries.
Caleb served as a curatorial advisor for an exhibition at Women & Their Work in Austin, juried numerous competitions including this year’s CADD (Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas) Fund, and worked on public art projects at Tyler Junior College and the University of Texas at Tyler. Most recently, he served as the juror for Craighead Green Gallery’s New Texas Talent XXVI exhibition in Dallas. This is an important exhibition and perhaps the last remaining noteworthy free juried show in the state, and a significant prospect for emerging Texas contemporary artists. It opens in August. It seems Caleb is all over the state promoting and bringing well[deserved attention to the arts of East Texas. Bell is riding the lightning of what is going in our regional community and he is a large part of what gives it legitimacy.
He describes, “I think one of the most important things art brings to my life is community. First and foremost, the connections and friendships I’ve made within the Tyler community. I have been fortunate to meet a lot of wonderful people through the museum and will be forever grateful. Our donors and members are very supportive, and I couldn’t do any of this without them. I’ve also met a lot of great artists over the years. While I’ve only met some in passing, I’ve gotten to know many personally while working on exhibitions and other projects. Likewise, I have gotten to meet a lot of passionate collectors who have been generous with their resources. In my experience, the Texas art community is pretty well connected. I have gotten to know many museum professionals across the state and try to support them when possible. I have also had the pleasure to work with many gallerists throughout Texas. When visiting their spaces in Dallas, Houston, etc., it always feels good to be greeted when walking through the gallery door. And almost always I instantly hear, what’s new in Tyler?”
Bell states, “I am very excited for the future of Texas contemporary art. In addition to veteran artists still contributing important work, there are a lot of talented, emerging artists working throughout the state. The Texas art scene is becoming more connected which is definitely a plus. There seem to be more alternative and non-traditional spaces popping up. I think those kinds of spaces can offer a unique viewing opportunity and allow for more artistic flexibility. From my observations, there seems to be a renewed interest in performance art. I also see more artists creating installation-based work. It feels like there is a real focus on providing a unique experience for viewers.”
When asked what inspired him to start curating exhibitions, Caleb Bell answers, “Edward Hopper once said, ‘If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.’ I think about this quote often when looking at work. I understand the power of art and want to share it with others. When putting together an exhibition, I am providing the viewer with an experience. And whether it is just encountering something new or providing a completely different perspective, it is my hope each viewer walks away slightly changed after looking at an exhibition.” He adds, “In an increasingly ephemeral world, art is lasting. Even when performance works are over, they leave an impact. I think the tangible aspect of art is grounding and we need connection in our digital society. I also consider it an honor to get to work with artists to help realize their dreams. Artists create pieces to share and I get to help bring that work to the public’s attention. It is very rewarding.”
Caleb explains, “When putting together an exhibition, I look at a lot of different things. Most importantly, I think about Tyler and the greater East Texas community. I think about how they will relate to and perceive it. I think about it in terms of the larger Texas art scene as well. Has the show already been done? What is the artistic importance of the exhibition? I also think about how we can program around it for the community. A couple of years ago, I presented Double Take: Works by Ed Blackburn which featured works inspired by various movies. I worked with Liberty Hall to put together a movie series tied in with the exhibition. It helped expand the conversation outside of the gallery.”
He continues, “I am always most excited about what is up at the museum at the time. Right now, we have two great exhibitions for the summer, Texas Birds: Works by Frank X. Tolbert 2 (on view through August 4th) and Floating Life: Mississippi River Drawings by Liz Ward (on view through August 25th). I paired them together because they create an interesting conversation between one another. While Frank’s show is all birds, Liz incorporates birds in some of her pieces and focuses on the flora and fauna of the Mississippi River region. They each offer a regionalist take on their respective subject matter. The exhibitions are both primarily works on paper and offer complementary color palettes.”
Caleb concludes, “I know I am biased, but I don’t understand why every person in Tyler doesn’t come to the museum. It is the community’s museum. From a well-rounded exhibition schedule to Family Days and other activities, there is literally something for everyone.”
For more info, go to tylermuseum.org.
Tyler Museum of Art: “Texas Birds” and “Floating Life: Mississippi River”
The Tyler Museum of Art (TMA) is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave. on the Tyler Junior College main campus. Regular TMA hours are 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday, and 1-5pm Sunday. The Museum is closed Mondays. For more info call the museum at (903)595-1001, tylermuseum.org, or email email@example.com.
The Tyler Museum of Art ushers in the summer season with a visual celebration of the avian species that fly the skies over the Lone Star State in the new exhibition “Texas Birds: Works by Frank X. Tolbert 2.” The show continues through August 4th in the TMA’s Bell Gallery. Admission is free.
Organized by the TMA and curated by Caleb Bell, “Texas Birds” spotlights works from Tolbert’s ongoing Texas Bird Project – including a recently finished piece that never has been seen by the public. Started in 2014, this body of work includes drawings, paintings, and prints that highlight a wide variety of the bird species that inhabit the state. The series largely was inspired by early childhood experiences with the Lone Star State’s vast array of flora and fauna on trips the artist took with his father, Frank X. Tolbert Sr., as the elder Tolbert was writing his column “Tolbert’s Texas” for the “Dallas Morning News.” Work on the Texas Bird Project began when the artist was commissioned by Austin’s Flatbed Press & Gallery to create eight bird etchings. After the initial exhibition at Flatbed, Tolbert said he decided to continue the project indefinitely.
“Texas Birds” marks the first time works from the Texas Bird Project have been organized into a major museum exhibition. Tolbert’s work has been widely exhibited and is featured in numerous public collections, including the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Dallas Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He and his wife, artist Ann Stautberg, live and work in Houston.
Support for “Texas Birds” is provided by Collectors’ Circle-Gold Sponsors June and Steve Hillis, and Myrtis D. Smith.
TMA Plots New Course with “Floating Life: Mississippi River Drawings by Liz Ward,” Through August 25th
The Tyler Museum of Art explores the mystique of the South as seen through the eyes of a Texas talent with its next major exhibition, “Floating Life: Mississippi River Drawings by Liz Ward.” The show continues through August 25th in the TMA’s North Gallery.
Organized by the TMA and curated by Caleb Bell, “Floating Life” is the first large-scale museum exhibition of Mississippi River works by Ward, a San Antonio artist and professor of art and art history at Trinity University, whose work largely is informed by natural history and the environmental crisis.
The exhibition spotlights pieces from two recent bodies of work: “Ghosts of the Old Mississippi” and “Veritas Caput.” The works from “Ghosts of the Old Mississippi” are based on geological maps of the river’s ancient courses and inspired by the artist’s childhood memories from South Louisiana, where her great-grandfather spent a career as a riverboat captain.
Pieces from “Veritas Caput” focus on the search for the source of the river by various explorers.
Ward’s work has been widely exhibited and is featured in numerous public collections, including the Tyler Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Support for “Floating Life” is provided by Collectors’ Circle-Gold Sponsors Betty and Dick Summers.
Summer Lecture Series Programs
TMA’s 2019 Summer Lecture Series will be held in the Museum’s Education Gallery. A small reception will follow each lecture. Admission is free, but seating is limited. To RSVP, call (903)595-1001.
- “Divide and Conquer: An Overview of the Mississippi River’s Role in the Civil War” by Dr. James Newsom, Senior Lecturer in Political Science and History, The University of Texas at Tyler will be held at 2:30pm, Sunday, June 23rd
- “I Knew Mark Twain” by Dr. Jim Richey, Professor and Department Chair of English, Tyler Junior College at 2:30pm on Sunday, July 21st
Special events in connection with current exhibitions include a free First Friday tour June 7th, July 5th and August 2nd.
The first Friday of each month, 11am-12:30pm, the TMA offers a full day of free admission plus guided tours of its spotlight exhibitions.
Family Days will be from 2-4pm Saturday, June 8th, July 13th and August 10th.
Free admission, interactive art projects, light snacks, and a festive atmosphere for all ages are on the menu for the second Saturday of each month with the Tyler Museum of Art’s Family Day.
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